“How do you stay consistent with your workouts?” asked my friend the other day. “I just can’t seem to fit them in, so many things seem to get in the way. Work is busy, the kids are busy, the schedule feels chaotic, my to do list keeps growing, and I de-prioritze my workout a lot of the time.” She sighed.
Can you relate to that feeling? Me too. When I worked in my global corporate role, it was a rare blessing to have 2 days in a row, let alone a week that smelled anything like a routine. Now, even though I work for myself, the challenge is no less. The school/summer schedule, sport seasons, doctor’s appointments and keep both my client’s and my own schedule in flux.
It isn’t willpower, superpowers or magic that makes consistency possible. It’s mindset, one that comes out of having an internal locus of control, or a belief that what we get/achieve in life is a result of our actions rather than our environment or circumstances out of our personal control.
Here are the 4 beliefs that I see in my most consistent clients.
Belief #1 - I am the only person who will prioritize my health.
It’s the hard truth, but no one can care about you more than you can. Not your spouse, doctor or best friend. No one is going to tell you to put yourself first and you can’t delegate it.
“You are 100% responsible for you.” - Mel Robbins
Belief #2 - Exercise is who I AM, not what I DO.
In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear shares with his readers the research on how identify-focused habits are more likely to stick than those focused on a goal. He writes,
“The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity… The more pride you have in a particular aspect of your identity, the more motivated you will be to maintain the habits associated with it.”
The women I work with who firmly believe they are active, healthy, regular exercisers are more apt to continuing a fitness program on their own.
Belief #3 - The health of my mind and body are fundamental to living my best life.
I know this seems basic, but I feel like we forget it or perhaps don’t appreciate it fully.
Pull out your schedule for the day. Circle the things that don’t require you to think, breath or move. None Right? How about items that require you to perform well, like:
focus/attention? (humm, driving the baseball carpool in rush hour...),
creativity? (I need to wow that potential client...),
critical analysis/decision making? (which new market should we invest in....)
a positive outlook to get through? (on deck tonight, the beginning band recital)
Many of us who are consistent in our fitness routines can report that we feel like more productive, calm, creative and positive humans when we exercise. That experience is now becoming supported by science.
Research is beginning to show that exercise may provide an “unparalleled stimulus, creating an environment in which the brain is ready, willing and able to learn. Aerobic activity has a dramatic effect on adaptation, regulating systems that might be out of balance and optimizing those that are not - it’s an indispensable tool…”
Spark, The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J. Ratey
Belief #4 - Rituals (schedules) create freedom.
This may seem counterintuitive. More schedule may feel like less flexibility and freedom, but when it comes to keeping an exercise schedule, creating and believing in a ritual is a game changer.
In the book, The Power of Full Engagement, Managing Energy; Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal - by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, we learn that
“The sustaining power of rituals comes from the fact that they conserve energy.” “In contrast to will and discipline which imply pushing ourselves into action, a well defined ritual pulls us in.”
The best rituals are precise and specific - the same time, place and duration every single day. For most of us, that means first thing in the morning (sorry) when there are fewer potential sources of disruption. When I worked at that corporate job, it was 4:30am, for 30 minutes, every weekday I was home. My experience is not unique. I see the most consistency in exercise from clients who make it the first thing they do each morning.
Beliefs are the foundation, but it does take action to be consistent. You don’t change overnight, but every single action you take that aligns with that belief, reinforces the belief. The more you believe, the most consistent your actions become. Here are a couple of practical actions you can take to build these beliefs:
Literally write exercise at the top of your to do list, every single day. I have a top 3 list and an everything else list. Exercise is a top 3.
Create your own affirmations for beliefs 1, 2 or 3. Start your morning with them.
Always know what’s next - have a 30 day workout plan. Make the task of exercising as easy as possible by putting space between the decisions of what to do and doing it. This can mean choosing which workouts/rides you'll do from your online subscription or pre-planning your run type/pace/distance. Right now, I am using my 30- day Aging Well Workout Planner, targeting the types of exercise that can help keep this 49 year old mind and body strong, capable and aging well.
Create your workout ritual. If you can, block out the same time each day for your workouts.
If your schedule changes weekly, and precision isn’t possible, consider establishing a planning ritual to prioritize your workouts. Here’s mine:
Each Friday at 10am, I review my week and prepare a plan for the following week. I block out the remaining time on my calendar in this order:
#1- workouts & meditation
I identify and block out 30-60 minutes each day for exercise
I write in the specific workout I will be doing, including my recovery days.
#2 - business standard work
These are already set up as a repeating appointment but things may need to move based on #1
#3 - business and personal goal actions
You might argue this should be second and I might too but that 's a different post. :)
If you're struggling with keeping your workout schedule, try choosing just one belief and action. If you're feeling solid, what belief keeps you motivated and consistent? Comment and let us know!
Thanks for being here,
You can grab your copy of my Aging Well Workout Planner here.
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